Santa and Mrs. Clause made an appearance at Target Saturday morning as part of the EPD’s annual Christmas with a Cop event.
Christmas has come early this year for some Edwardsville children.
Members of the Edwardsville Police Department and the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 244 met early Saturday morning with 22 preselected children to shop at the Edwardsville Target for Christmas.
Each child was awarded $200 to spend on Christmas presents on his or her wish lists.
Sergeant Matt Breihan said with this being the eighth year of the program, two more kids were added to be sponsored for the event this year.
“We tried to stay within 20 – 20 was our budget. But there are kids out there that we don’t know about – some that aren’t enrolled in school, so the younger kids. When we sponsor a family, we realize that they have a three-year-old that may not be in school, so we sponsor the three-year-old. So this year we have 22 kids,” Breihan said.
Kids and their families enjoyed a free breakfast at 8:15 a.m. at Burger King before Edwardsville police transported the kids to Target in their police cars. Each child was paired with an officer, who pushed the shopping carts and supervised how much they were spending.
Breihan said the officers in attendance for the event were all participating by choice to give back to the community.
“I would say any officer that’s available is participating this year,” Breihan said. “Given the holiday season, it’s a little bit hard to get your weekends free. But all of the officers here are on their own time.”
Santa and Mrs. Clause also made an appearance at the event.
With over 15 officers participating this year, Breihan said with most being parents, the officers try to find a common ground between the children’s’ wants and needs when shopping.
“We try and focus on wants and needs – what the child wants and what the child needs. Yes, they give you toys for Christmas but they also get things they need. It could be gloves to hats to coats to socks and underwear and then they also get the toys every child wants for Christmas,” Breihan said.
Following the gift purchases, gift wrapping tables were set up in the food court where each gift was wrapped by volunteers and members of the EPD’s Explorer Program. Target donated the wrapping paper and other materials needed to prepare the presents for the families’ trees.
Officer Rick Thompson, of the EPD, said he hopes the kids participating in Shop with a Cop are able to have a good Christmas and form a bond with the officers.
“Realistically, what I hope the kids come away with is number one, a good Christmas. I think every kid deserves a good Christmas, no matter what the circumstances may be, whether there’s a lost job or an injury or someone who can’t work. Children seem to love police officers anyway so what I hope they get away is to take away what they already think of us – that we are their friend, for them like another parent figure that they can count on,” Thompson said.
Breihan was in agreement and said overall, he believes the kids will remember this day for years to come.
“I hope they remember this day. I’m sure they will and maybe down the road when they get a little bit older, they can give back to the community also,” Breihan said.
The kids were selected through District 7 after the EPD’s School Resource Officers and the D.A.R.E. program reached out to principals, nurses and counselors to see which families were truly in need this holiday season. The Fraternal Order of Police’s union officers are also a vital part to this program, seeing as they are responsible for collecting the funds and making contacts within the schools.
After participating in years’ past and this year, Thompson said more times than not, the officers choose to lend an extra hand when shopping with the kids.
“One of the coolest things for this event for me is seeing my coworkers – usually the coworkers will be walking around and although there’s only $200 allowed per kid, you’re going to see a lot of cops pulling out their personal wallet and their credit cards and buying coats, buying shoes, the wants…so the kids are still getting a lot of toys, and getting their wants,” Thompson said.
The EPD offered their thanks to Burger King, Target, the Explorer Program, the Kiwanis Club and private donors for their contributions and their families and spouses for also attending the event. Breihan said everything went very smoothly this year thanks to all who were involved.
“Just a huge thank you for the breakfast donated by Burger King and thank you to Target for allowing us to use their store and for the supplies and stuff. They helped donate the supplies to wrap all of the presents so the kids have something to open up,” he said.
For more information about Christmas with a Cop, contact the Edwardsville Police Department at 656-2131.